Time for an update on where on earth I’m located now again. Yesterday I woke up at 04.00 in order to catch my bus which departed from Tallinn’s ‘bussijaam’ at 06.30. It was quite a challenge to get there with one suitcase, one heavily filled backpack, one huge shopper with kitchen utensils and an overfilled cotton bag with all random remains. A retractable wardrobe and some coat hangers were creatively fixed to my little orange suitcase. Oh what an adventure. It had been snowing pretty heavily in Estonia the last few days, so that was another challenge to overcome. Luckily the early trams filled with pensioner-aged travelers (where were those people going?) brought me to the bus station perfectly nice on time. I was asked to enter a bus which had a St. Petersburg destination sign behind its window shield. I shared a worrisome look with another foreign traveller but then just surrendered to the uncertainty.
Riga it was. Good. It was lovely weather over there and it had obviously not been snowing that much. The new library seems pretty finished, finally. A little further I saw the Z-Towers still being in the middle of their construction phase. Time to change the bus. When showing my ticket and ID-card to the stewardess she frowned. “You’re not on my list. This is the bus to Stuttgart”. After some seconds of silence she luckily discovered a free place in the bus. “Seat 26 is yours, upstairs, oh, and we’ll stop in Kaunas”. Aiii, hardly being able to view the road ahead of me I already had visions of my worst case scenario car sickness happenings. Luckily it went surprisingly well this time. No sickness, so a lot of time to eat cookies and listen to music and my audio book of Roald Dahl’s the BFG. Loved it. When driving through Vilnius I thought about how different Tallinn actually is from Lithuania’s capital. This Nordic vibe is surely missing out here, but yet, this raw edge also has something mysteriously attractive.
When in Vilnius a middle-aged man from Ukraine was appointed a seat next to me. It was very nice talking to him. He learned English by himself, because during Soviet times everybody declared him as a fool stating he’d anyways never need that language. Not true, luckily! He told me that he’s from an industrial city which is proclaimed the most dirty one in the entire country, and that his dream is to live in other places for some months, like Prague. After some minutes of silence he whispered “Can I ask you something? The people sitting behind us are discussing politics. To me it seems like a typical thing for this region. Could you maybe tell me how it is in your country, do middle aged men sitting in busses discuss these kind of heavy topics as well?”. I answered him that if it would already happen, it would never really be in such a fanatic way as it happens here. Then we somehow ended up talking about gay rights in Russia. I was actually very curious how he as a citizen of Ukraine would think about this topic. Here in the Baltic countries people often speak about it in a negative way, so I wouldn’t have been surprised if he would have shared those opinions as well.
Then he started telling me about one of his good friends in his hometown in Ukraine. This friend is a doctor and has a good reputation. Furthermore, he is gay. It was so nice to notice in how such a loving way my Vilnius-Kaunas travel companion was talking about his friend and how all the people in his surrounding there respected this friend for how he is, same counting for his partner. I told him about my experiences during my lectures in Estonia, that young guys often react negatively on homosexuality when it concerns two men, but that it’s suddenly all fine when two girls are making out together. He quoted a movie with Charlie Sheen and Denise Richards and it was something like this: “It’s basically impossible for a woman to find a perfect man who’s caring, cleaning, etc… those men all love other men”.
From this we switched to yet another interesting topic. I said that many young boys might have these pornographic-like ideas when thinking about lesbians. Then the Ukrainian started to tell about the Soviet times. He told that people from the Soviet Union had such a twisted perception on Western-Europe, since they saw pornographic material from this area. They somehow thought Western-Europe equaled pornography and that it would be available easily without any sense of shame for the buyer (or better said, consumer, in this case). He said he was in London in 1989 and entered a shop called XXX. He seriously had no clue what kind of shop it could have been, and I could see on the expression of his face that he actually meant that. When noticing it was a ‘pleasure store’ with two very tidy looking gentlemen working there he decided just to buy a magazine. Since he thought West-Europeans were so open about sexuality he just left the store with the magazine under his arm. One of the gentleman rushed after him. “Sir? Sir! Please, can I offer you this neutral envelope for your magazine? People in England usually don’t show off buying magazines like these” And that’s when he discovered his Sovietic perception didn’t really correspond with reality. It might sound strange to you, as a reader now, to discuss these topics with a stranger, but I assure you it was a very neat one in which cultural viewpoints were discussed respectfully. Isn’t that just wonderful, to learn more about the world in this way?
Because of the nice talk the trip to Kaunas didn’t feel to last for such a long time. So, there I was, ready for another adventure in the city where my home university is located. It felt good. There was not that much snow yet so my suitcase was perfectly able to easily roll home with me. Home… 15m2 (hm, a little bit less I guess) with badly isolated windows, a tiny heating device, a kitsch blanket with swans and lilies, a terribly moldy bathroom, the first blue screen of death of this semester but all with an awesome roommate from China. The raw edge, I better enjoy it now I’m still in my low expectations student profile mode ;-).